Indiana County Turns to Card Readers, Metal Detection

Jul. 3--Howard County took another step toward new security measures at the county courthouse with the approval of an ordinance to implement security rules.

County officials expect to have metal detectors and an X-ray machine operating at the public entrance (east doors) later this month.

Howard County Commissioners on Monday approved the new security rules that will go into effect when the heightened security measures are placed in operation.

The rules require all county employees to wear picture identification badges, according to Commissioner Brad Bagwell.

Bagwell said the identification badge for courthouse employees will provide access to the west doors of the courthouse. Other county employees entering through the east doors will not have to go through the metal detectors.

The regulation requires all employees entering through the west employee entrance to swipe their identification badge through a card reader.

The ordinance allows for certain visitors to obtain a frequent-visitor pass that must be used at the east entrance. A card reader will be at the east door with green and red lights. When the frequent-visitor pass is swiped, it will show either green or red. A green light means the person doesn't have to go through the metal detector or X-ray machine. A red light means the person must go through the security devices.

"All employees should wear the badges at all times when working," Commissioner Dave Trine said.

To obtain a frequent-visitor pass, an application must be filed at the Courthouse Security office and will cost $50. A replacement badge will cost $10. A visitor's pass can be revoked at any time.

No weapons will be allowed into the courthouse which includes guns, knives, explosives, chemicals or hazardous materials. The exception is any law enforcement officer on duty will be allowed to enter the building with their weapons.

Law enforcement officers who are off duty or attending a civil court hearing will be required to store their weapons with the security office.

Any person violating the rules can be fined up to $2,500. Employees failing to comply with the ordinance can face possible termination.

Cellular telephones will be allowed in the foyer of the courthouse, but will have to be turned off when in the courtrooms or county offices.

County officials have been seeking to increase security at the Howard County Courthouse since last October when Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray learned an Indiana Homeland Security Grant was available.

Grant funds were used to purchase the equipment and the county council appropriated funds to hire and train two full-time security officers, that will be members of the Howard County Sheriff's Department.

The two security officers are currently in training.

Copyright (c) 2007, Kokomo Tribune, Ind. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.